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Provinces primed for IRFU battle as imports restricted

THE three major Irish provinces could be on a collision course with the IRFU after the union agreed to limit the number of foreigners plying their trade in Ireland.

As part of the IRFU plan, Leinster, Munster and Ulster will be restricted to 15 foreign players between them, with the IRFU prohibiting any of those players playing in the same position.

Connacht are exempt from the rules because they have been granted ‘private franchise’ status.

The rules, which will come into force from the 2013/2014 season onwards, include:

- One non-Irish eligible (NIE) player only in each of the 15 field positions across the provinces of Leinster, Munster and Ulster – ie, one foreign player allowed across all three teams in each position.

- For any given position involving a contracted NIE player, a province will not be permitted to renew that NIE player’s contract to bring in a new NIE player into that same position in its squad.

- All future provincial injury replacement players must be eligible for selection for Ireland.

- All future provincial non-Irish eligible player contracts will be position specific.

IRFU CEO Philip Browne believes the rules will allow for greater opportunities for academy players to come through the ranks.

“The desired outcome to the changes to contract policies is Irish-qualified players progressing through the provincial academy systems will see greater opportunities,” he said.

“This will allow both the IRFU and provinces to maximise value for the €2.5m that is invested annually across the four provincial academies.

“It is essential that the Ireland team is given every opportunity to remain competitive internationally.”